Vokes relaxed ahead of Euro 2016 quarter-final tie

Striker Sam Vokes says that he and his international team-mates are relaxed ahead of Wales' Euro 2016 quarter-final tie with Belgium.

Friday, 1st July 2016, 3:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:26 pm
Clarets striker Sam Vokes could make his third successive start at Euro 2016 when Wales take on Belgium in the quarter-final

Coach Chris Coleman has handed the 26-year-old a start in the Dragons’ last two outings, which both ended in victory.

Vokes played 90 minutes as the Welsh topped Group B with a 3-0 win over Russia in Toulouse and featured for 55 minutes as they bypassed Northern Ireland in the knockout stages.

Now the Turf Moor marksman, who netted 16 times last season in the Championship, is pushing for selection again as he bids to become the first Claret since Jimmy McIlroy in 1958 to play in the final eight of a major tournament.

Wales, who took four points off Marc Wilmots’ men in qualifying, have obviously been training hard for this evening’s clash at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, but there have been opportunities for the players to unwind and take some of the pressure off.

“It’s not been too bad, we are a close group,” he said. “There is a lot of table tennis and FIFA. I’m more of a cards man, but I try to keep away so I don’t lose too much money. There are a lot of things going on, a few events every night with team games. It has been good. Court, we call it.

“There are a few teams and we have a quiz every night. Whoever ends up bottom at the end of the week has to do a forfeit. Luckily we haven’t come last yet. I have quite a strong team, myself, Aaron Ramsey, Andy King, Joe Ledley, David Cotterill and Simon Church.

“I don’t know about the brain power! The quiz is on general knowledge, some football ones. Mitch (Ian Mitchell), our psychologist, sets it up. The forfeit can depend – singing, dancing, a number of things. Hal did a dance one night, which was very good.”

Vokes added: “He (Mitch) has been good. I know a few of the lads work day in day out at Swansea. He has been a good influence, little things to stop boredom is really important.

“He has brought us together in creating together stronger. Its open door, have a chat when you want. He’s a very open guy and good to talk to. He’s great to have around the place.”

Should Vokes get given the nod he will likely be up against Spurs centre-half Toby Alderweireld and Barcelona’s Thomas Vermaelen, and he’s planning on making an early impression on the pair.

“When you are up against another player - especially a striker or a centre-half – it’s important mentally to win those few challenges, especially as a lone striker against two centre-halves, experienced boys.

“It’s important that you do that and you try to win your one v ones battles. That is how I try to go into most games. As a striker your goal is to score goals and that is why you go into games.”

However, Vokes knows that he’s not alone in the final third with the likes of Gareth Bales – who is currently leading France forward Antoine Griezmann in the race for the Golden Boot by virtue of having added an assist – and Aaron Ramsey in close proximity.

“It’s brilliant, you couldn’t ask for more than having two number 10s like that behind you. They’re World class. To have them in behind you creating chances and space so you can do your job up front is great.

“They have played together a lot, we all have, so we know how we work. On the pitch Gareth leads the team through his performances.”

With the potential for a penalty shoot-out, Vokes, who converted three times from the spot for Sean Dyche’s side last season, said: “I do take penalties at club football. I have not necessarily been practicing.

“I think when they come round it is hard to recreate that moment. But I think it is important that at some point we look at it, going into another knockout stage now it is an option that could come up.”